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Uber Deal! Uber Settles Driver Classification Lawsuits

Happy Monday, dear readers!

Last week provided some interesting events and one tidbit of interesting news for all of us in the world of workers’ comp.  April 20, 2016, was what many of the kids call “national weed day” which is an unofficial practice in the United States to smoke marijuana, apparently with little regard for the law and with less regard for the health effects of that most insidious of weeds.

Of course, the next day, April 21, 2016, was another festival which employers like to refer to as “random drug test day” which occurred with obvious results.

Other than the flood of “stoner-unemployus” flowers blossoming throughout the nation, last week brought us even more news: Uber has apparently settled two class action lawsuits.  Basically, it looks like Uber will pay the driver-plaintiffs $84-100 million, but they will remain classified as independent contractors rather than employees.

There will also be some changes to Uber’s business practices in how it treats its driver, and, of course, the settlement is subject to judicial approval.

So here’s the thing – Uber is saving a tremendous amount of money by having independent contractors rather than employees.  Liability is limited as are the benefits owed, the rights accrued, and the insurance that Uber might otherwise have to pay for.

So, what’s to stop the next crop of drivers from filing a similar lawsuit and demanding their $100 million? Nothing.

Your humble blogger submits to you, thought, that this is a victory for Uber and, really, a victory for all private citizens.  To follow the logic on this one you’ll need to take a sip of Scotch (I know it’s only 8:00 in the morning, but your humble blogger has given you permission) and suspend the disbelief.

Every year Uber continues to operate – every year the gig economy continues to disregard the clunky old employer-employee relationship and boost mini-entrepreneurship and free-lancing it gets to (a) make more money, and, more importantly (b) further the popular acceptance of the benefits of the gig economy for the worker and the customer.

There was a time when workers’ compensation was new, and a huge chunk of the decision makers, from commissioners to elected officials, came from the old school of thought that if you’re not happy with your job, find another one.  Now, the vast majority of decision-makers come from the school of thought that everything, from taking a fare in your car to whistling while strolling through the park should be regulated, licensed, and taxed.  From the Wild West to the Byzantine Empire is one step in California’s history – now it’s time for the next.

Technology and information will reduce the need for government oversight and regulation.  And, as government oversight and regulation in interactions goes, so goes the burdensome cost of the same.  In 10-20 years, your humble blogger expects the average citizen, juror, commissioner and judge to fault the worker for taking a job with terms he or she found disagreeable, rather than punishing the “employer” for thinking the worker could make his or her own decisions.

Uber has paid several million dollars to keep the chains off the doors a while longer.  Every year, those chains will (hopefully) get weaker and weaker until they won’t be there anymore.

Now… wasn’t that bit of breakfast scotch worth your humble blogger’s charming vision of the future?

Back to the files, dear readers!

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